The Origins of Intel's New Transistor, and Its Future

A Q&A with Chenming Hu, coinventor of both the FinFET and its likely competitor

6 min read

9 May 2011—Last Wednesday, Intel announced a big change to the electronic switches at the heart of its CPUs. Going forward, the firm will be using three-dimensional transistors to take the place of long-used planar devices.

The new transistors—dubbed "tri-gates"—are a variation on the FinFET, a transistor design that substitutes the flat channel through which electrons flow with a 3-D ridge, or fin. Popping the channel out of plane and draping the gate—which switches the transistor on and off—over it will allow Intel to shrink the smallest features in its transistors from 32 nanometers to 22 nm while cutting power consumption in half. This feat would be impossible to do with the transistor design the company had been using.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

1 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan
LightGreen

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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